The Tennessee Titans dropped their second consecutive game on Sunday, falling 24-16 to the Baltimore Ravens in London, England. The 2-4 Titans are in last place in the newly-competitive AFC South. Even the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, who have rookie quarterbacks at the helm, have won more games (3) than the Titans.
All eyes are on the health of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who exited Sunday’s contest with an ankle injury. Tannehill was replaced by Malik Willis, who was sacked four times on 12 dropbacks. The Titans are entering a Week 7 bye, giving Tannehill extra time to get healthy before the Titans resume play against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 8.
Tannehill’s health and status will dominate Nashville’s headlines. The majority of the fanbase is clamoring for Will Levis or Willis to start in place of Tannehill. The Titans appear headed for a wasted campaign, and there’d be value in evaluating the future before it arrives.
An underrated storyline is the impending arrival of the NFL’s trade deadline, scheduled for October 31st. The Titans have several veterans on expiring contracts. If general manager Ran Carthon is beginning to look towards the future, and he should, the Titans should be sellers at the deadline. The bye week represents an ideal time for sweeping changes. We’ve swiftly identified three veterans the Titans should consider trading at the deadline.
I don’t write this lightly, like so many other Titans analysts do. Henry is an all-time Titan great that recently surpassed (8,760) the legendary Earl Campbell (8,574) for second place on the Oilers/Titans all-time rushing yards list. Henry, and many Titans executives, would love to see him surpass Eddie George (10,009) for first place.
Trading Henry would be admitting defeat on the campaign while banishing a top-five all-time Titan. The soon-to-be-30-year-old Henry is in the final season of a previously signed four-year contract worth $50 million. Would the Titans be interested in re-signing an aging Henry when they’re so clearly heading for what’s likely to be a multi-year rebuild? Would Henry possess interest in continuing with the only professional franchise he’s ever known, even if his chances of winning a Super Bowl in Nashville are evaporating?
There are several sides to that coin. If the Titans and Henry are headed for an amicable split in the offseason, and I believe they are, Carthon would be wise to dangle Henry on the trade market. The two-time rushing yard champion should fetch at least a second-round selection from a contending franchise. The pick-needy Titans, who don’t currently possess 3rd-or-5th-round selections in the 2024 NFL Draft, aren’t in a position to decline such an offer, even if it means trading away their face-of-the-franchise.
Denico Autry is performing as advertised despite his advancing age. The former undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State ranks first on the team in sacks (4.0) and third in pressures (18), trailing just Jeffery Simmons (25) and Arden Key (20) for the team-lead in that department. Autry is also playing on an expiring contract that makes him movable.
Autry signed a three-year contract worth $21.5 million with the Titans ahead of the 2021 campaign. Autry has low-key been one of the greatest, most valuable free-agency signings in Titans history. Under normal circumstances, the Titans may even consider re-signing Autry in the offseason. But they’re not legitimate competitors, nor did they engage in serious extension discussions with him ahead of 2023. Autry will be well past his prime before they’re ready to contend again.
Teair Tart has missed the previous two Titans contests with a toe injury and the defense has fallen off a cliff. The Colts rushed for nearly 200 yards against the typically run-stingy Titans. That quickly proved Tart’s value to the Titans defense, and competing franchises around the league surely took notice.
Reading between the lines, there appears to be friction between the Titans and Tart. Defensive line coach Terrell Williams has been full of criticisms for Tart dating back to the offseason. The Titans pretended Tart was in a positional battle with Jayden Peevy, who’s no longer on the roster. Tart has been firing off (now deleted) subliminal tweets. Simmons questioned the effort of unnamed teammates following Sunday’s frustrating defeat to Baltimore.
That may or may not relate to Tart. It wouldn’t be shocking if Tart was frustrated with his contract, however. Tart is playing on a one-year, $4.3 million deal after the Titans assigned him with a second-round tender and refused to negotiate a long-term contract. Business is business, and the Titans wisely took advantage of a system that’s slanted to protect them. Tart is undeniably underpaid, and possibly disappointed.
Under typical circumstances, Tart should be a candidate for the Titans to re-sign. He’s a young, ascending defender that’s developed from a two-down nose tackle to a three-down playmaker. But neither side appears to be particularly happy with the other. Carthon should consider trading Tart if this relationship is nearing its expiration date.